Tennis in Fernie has become an increasingly popular sport for all people and all ages, and it’s really because of the passion and perseverance of one very hard working woman – Lucy Harrup. Lucy’s efforts were recently recognized by Tennis BC, awarding her with the Community Coach of the Year through her role as head coach of Fernie Sports Co.
So, just how did she get here?
Lucy grew up in Suffolk, England, “But if anyone asks, I say Cornwall because that’s where my heart is in the UK,” she tells me. “It’s just so perfect for me. I love the ocean and sea… I like to surf, and I was a sailing instructor. The ocean is so blue, and I love the Cornish accent and the pirates.”
After high school, Lucy went straight to the Southampton University where she started a law degree.
“But after a year, I realized I couldn’t play as much sport and also pass the degree, so I changed to a Bachelor of Science in Geography. I kind of wish I wouldn’t have changed, as think I would be good at it now as am much braver.”
Tennis was the first sport Lucy played as a 2-3-year old. By the age of seven she was travelling to compete and she loved the sport, but soon sailing took over and she began competing at a very high level. Lucy also played field hockey and was on the national league throughout university.
“I didn’t play tennis for three years. It is so hard mentally and I didn’t have the support needed to compete at that level, so fell into the team sports. During the summers, I went to the Mediterranean to teach sailing… and that’s where I met Jay,” she adds.
Jay, Lucy’s future husband was a chef and super into snowboarding.
“He had done ski seasons in Europe already and his dad had always wanted to come to Canada. When he found out about Fernie and all of its powder and saw a link to Nonstop it was the plan,” Lucy tells me. “I had skied as a kid and we did a trip to France snowboarding and I loved it.”
The duo moved in with Lucy’s sister in London to save up before they moved to Fernie for their first winter season in 2004.
“I would go to Cornwall in the summers as the pound was good, then come back for winter. I had my level two as a snowboard instructor and felt like I needed credibility before teaching so decided to ride every day, all day the entire season (and it was a rainy one) and finally felt ready to teach.”
As many who come for the winter and want to stay, Lucy and Jay were faced with the issue of a one-year visa. They headed back to the UK, then went to the Alps to run a chalet where Jay was the cook and Lucy was the housekeeper.
“I wanted to be in the mountains, but outside!” Lucy says. And just when she was about to give up on the Fernie dream, the phone rang.
“Rupert, the owner of Nonstop, called to tell us he was opening Red Tree Lodge and that he would get us visas as a chef and snowboard instructor if we would come back… and we did in 2007, and never left.”
Lucy was a snowboard instructor in the winter and was doing whatever she could in the summer months to make ends meet, including coaching for Fernie Tennis.
“It was a really small role, as Charlotte worked so hard, but I loved it,” she tells me.
In 2019, Charlotte and her family decided to move back to Scotland, and she approached Lucy to take on the business.
“I was like, no way. I don’t have a business degree, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer and she gave me such a great deal. It was scary, as we had just bought our house and Jay was in school for his heavy duty mechanic. But, it kind of worked out although we are still recovering from that!”
COVID didn’t help, but Lucy got her Canadian certification for tennis instruction and ‘hustled so hard’ because she had to.
Today, she looks on and is proud of what she and her tennis community has built. She had two adult clients, and a few juniors when she began. Now, all age groups are playing and thriving! Tennis BC visited this summer and said Fernie has the largest junior and adult following of all remote communities. The only issue she faces these days is how to train athletes throughout the year, and likely figuring out how to meet the increased demand. Her ultimate dream is for there to be a multi-sport complex for indoor sports.
“I don’t have any answers, but I know we could retain more people and develop more athletes if we had one.”
What I love most about Lucy, besides her enthusiasm and love of coaching, is her desire to remove the barriers to sport. Whether it be diversability or financial, she will find a way to get people on the court.
There is a lot on the books in 2024 for Fernie Sports Co., including the popular camps, weekly sessions, tournaments and more. But until then, Lucy is training especially hard for her Level Four in Instructor Training for Snowboarding. There are only nine women in Canada with a Level 4… and I have a feeling pretty soon there will be 10.
Visit ferniesportsco.com to learn more.
1. When did you first arrive in Fernie and what brought you here?
2004 and it was the powder and snowboarding.
2. Who do you remember first meeting?
Jody Parker and her mom Jeannie at Mugshots, because we had our meals here with Nonstop.
3. Do you remember your first general impression of Fernie?
Just, wow. Massive mountains.
4. What keeps you here?
The quality of life and that we can be outside so much and so easily.
5. Do you have a favourite pastime?
If I could surf every day, I would do that before going to the gym, before playing tennis… but due to the lack of surf in Fernie my kids and I are learning to skateboard! It is so fun and so scary.
6. What time of the year do you love most in Fernie, and why?
I just decided this.. it’s fall for sure! I think it’s because it’s so beautiful, I love trail running in the leaves, I love looking up at the mountains and the temperature. It’s also my off season and a time for me to prepare for the winter.
7. Where do you see or hope to see Fernie in five years?
With an indoor sports centre, but not much else has changed.
8. How do you start your day or what is one of your daily rituals?
A cup of tea, always.
9. Tell us something people might be surprised to learn about you.
I actually really like peace and quiet.
10. Quote to live by:
Champions keep playing until they get it right. ~ Billie Jean King